“Pic of the Week”, July 8, 2016: Guanacos, Patagonia

El Chalten 2014 (6c) Guanacos

I’d the impression guanacos were not that common an animal in South America.  Yes, they were there, but like the Andean Condor you’d have to be lucky to see one.  After visiting Argentina and Chile I learned this impression was totally wrong.  They’re as common as corn in the fields of Iowa on a summer day,   As common as mosquitoes on the Canadian tundra after the spring thaw.  They’re everywhere!  These guanacos were standing beside the road and didn’t move when our tour van stopped for these photos, unconcerned about our presence.

Guanacos are related to camels and between 1 and 1.2 meters (3 – 4 ft) tall  at the shoulder, weighing a surprising 90 kg (200 lb).   Their color is very bland compared to their cousins, …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 3, 2016: La Leona, Argentina

El Chalten 2014 (50d) La Leona

La Leona Rest Area and Countryside Hotel is 110 kilometers from El Calafate, on famous Patagonia Route 40, about half way between El Calafate and El Chaltén.  It’s an isolated place in an isolated region — the Patagonian steppe.  La Leona consists of a small collection of buildings sandwiched between the La Leona River and Route 40, and is close to Lake Viedma.  The main building was constructed in 1894 by the Jensens, a family of Danish immigrants.

It was at this spot that Francisco P. Moreno (Argentinian scientist, explorer and namesake of the famous glacier) had previously been attacked and wounded by a female cougar (known locally as a “lioness”).  Because of this incident the river that flows beside the …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 5) Viedma Glacier, Argentina

Viedma Glacier, El Chaltan 066

Situated close to the small Argentinean town of El Chalten is Lake Viedma, a large glacial lake.  You can take a boat tour to visit the largest glacier in the Southern Patagonia Ice Field, the Viedma Glacier, from a dock on the northwestern shore of the lake, near El Chalten (which you can reach by bus from town).

The following overview photo, courtesy of NASA, will help orient you a little better.  Viedma Lake is obvious, as is the Patagonian Icefield.  The Viedma Glacier is at 12 o’clock in this photo (actually direction is west).  The boat launch is in the little thumb at the top right of the lake at about one o’clock.  El Chalten is in a non-snow …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Nowhere is a Place. Visiting Patgonia, 4) El Chalten, Argentina

22 El Chalten 2014 (186)

Our next stop in Patagonia is the small town of El Chaltén in Argentina.  This town rests in the rain shadow of the massive spires of the Patagonian Andes and is a dry, windy and cool place.

The region around El Chaltén is part of Los Glaciares National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, and is very remote.  It is usually reached by taking the bus or driving from El Calafate some 220 km to the south, El Calafate itself a remote town which we’ve previously discussed here.

The town resides in a glaciated valley adjoining the Rio de las Vueltas. The most dramatic aspect of El Chaltén is the beautiful mountains that frame it to the west, including the amazingly steep and narrow spire …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

The Church of our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta, Argentina

Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemeteryand Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar tower  080

The historic and beautiful cathedral, Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar (The Church of Our Lady of Pilar), is situated in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta.  The church adjoins the famous Recoleta cemetery, which we’ve previously visited on this website.

Iglesia Nuestra Senora del Pilar is considered one of the most beautiful examples of Buenos Aires’ Colonial architecture.  It’s the city’s second oldest church and has retained its original altarpiece and icons.   The church is named in honor of the patron saint of the city of Zaragoza in Spain, and was completed in 1732.  Its original architect was a Jesuit, Andres Bianchi, and was built in conjunction with a convent of Franciscans.

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

Altarpiece, The Church of Our Lady of Pilar, Recoleta

The monks of Recoletos were expelled from …

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“Pic of the Week”, December 18, 2015: The Fitz Roy Massif, El Chalten

03 El Chalten 2014 (224)

For many years I’d wanted to see one of the most famous peaks in the world with my own eyes, namely the Fitz Roy Massif (aka Mount Fitz Roy or Cerro Fitz Roy).  In fact, seeing the mountains of Patagonia was my greatest motivation for visiting the southern reaches of South America.

This mountain is very near that small Argentinian town of El Chaltén, which abuts the Southern Patagonian Ice Field.  The Massif is situated around the poorly defined (and often disputed) border between Argentina and Chile, although the Argentinians claim it as theirs.  The mountain was named in honor of the famous captain by Argentine explorer, Francisco Moreno, in 1877.  Captain Fitz Roy and his ship, the HMS Beagle, traveled extensively around and …

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.All Trips / Argentina / South America

Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires Recoleta Cemetery 066

Who would have guessed the most expensive real estate in Buenos Aires is found in a cemetery?  Not only is it expensive, there’s a line waiting to get in (seriously)!  You actually lease a plot here, as I understand it, and don’t permanently own it.  In the future your heirs can cancel the deal or let the lease expire, though it’s so prestigious to have a plot here few do.  Regardless, this piece of pricy land has become an interesting and popular tourist attraction.

Recoleta Cemetery is the final resting place of some of the richest and most important people in Argentina’s history, including politicians, Nobel prize winners, scientists and businessmen.  Obviously only wealthy people can afford the real estate (about …

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“Pic of the Week”, June 5, 2015: El Ateneo, Buenos Aires

El Alteneo 006

I love book and collect them (thousands of them — where to put them all?).  I make a point of visiting libraries and bookstores during my travels although sometimes these visits happen by accident.  So it was when I discovered El Ateneo Grand Splendid bookstore one evening in the Recoleta neighborhood of Buenos Aires, as my wife and I were walking back to our hotel after dinner in a parrillo (Argentine steakhouse).

Buenos Aires is known as the “Paris of South America”.  Many elegant buildings were constructed a century ago when the country was one of the wealthiest in the world, before a string of progressively worse governments destroyed Argentina’s economy.  The result is a city that has a European …

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